Hoop heaven

Sega and Sony got game

Rating: NNNNN

it’s no surprise that in an ego-stroking game like pro ball, players want to see themselves represented correctly in video games. That the majority of NBA players are also game addicts shouldn’t be discounted either.This fall saw the release of no fewer than three major b-ball simulators, NBA 2K1 for Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation’s NBA Live 2001 and NBA Shootout 2001. Spend even a few hours with the trio, though, and it becomes painfully obvious that all ball games are not created equal.

Here are the results of a rainy Sunday test drive, with special attention paid to the Vince Carter factor.

*NBA 2K1, for Sega Dreamcast. $60. Rating: NNNN

The best of the bunch. This might seem slightly unfair considering the graphic advantage of the Dreamcast over the original Play-Station, but it’s still true. The original NBA 2K was the first game to show what Dreamcast could do, with players and arenas that looked like the real thing, right down to the tattoos, and slow-motion cameras that could zoom in on the logo on the ball.

The 2001 edition builds on the original and changes little. Defence is still almost impossible and players’ shoes still squeak when you make a fast pivot. The graphics are stunning, and you can play it online with someone in Denver via SegaNet.

The Bottom Line: Still the best b-ball game out there, at least until PlayStation 2 gets involved.

The Carter Factor: Allen Iverson might be on the cover, but NBA 2K1 is Vince Carter’s game. Give him the ball and the commentators start talking about how he’s the future of the game. You would, too, if you saw his 360 dunks, sick crossover moves and uncanny ability to hit from beyond the arc.

NBA LIVE 2001, for Sony PlayStation. $60. Rating: NNNNBA Live is the classic, played by millions and immortalized in dozens of rhymes. And while it isn’t as graphically stunning as NBA 2K1, it is still blindingly addictive and pretty close to the real deal.

The gameplay itself is relatively straightforward and even occasionally easy to crack. Where NBA Live takes off is with its extras. In addition to straight-up games, you can play 1-on-1 with Michael Jordan or build up points over the course of a season, earning hot new shoes, cornrows and a Dr. J-worthy ‘fro.

The Bottom Line: The best b-ball game for PlayStation.

The Carter Factor: More ecstatic Carter-centric commentary, while the man himself rattles the rim with outrageous dunks and some trademark post-slam taunting.

NBA SHOOTOUT 2001, for Sony PlayStation. $60. Rating: NNStrictly the basics, and just barely that. NBA Shootout 2001 has the worst graphics, commentary and moves of the bunch. It’s slow ­– you have to wait while players lumber on and off the court ­– utterly free of defence and short on any real extras.

It’s also disturbingly easy to lose track of the ball here, which can be problematic when the computer has possession down low. Despite the game’s nailing the arc of Patrick Ewing’s lunging hook shot, reality is in short supply here.

The Bottom Line: Strictly for amateurs.

The Carter Factor: Slim to none. The last time I played, Carter kept clanging his dunks off the rim. When was the last time you saw that happen? mattg@nowtoronto.comwww.darwinawards.com

It’s that time again, when the most ridicu- lous, inept and unintentionally hilarious acts committed by humanity over the past 12 months are rated and then sent out as a massively forwarded e-mail. Read about all 22 shortlisted candidates for this year’s Darwin Awards, including the first man to die celebrating the new millennium and the guy who drowned when his duct-tape-patched boat sank. One place where your ballot actually counts. MG

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